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Pacific Jewellery

Pacific Jewellery

Currently on display | Foyer Cabinet | Gallery of Modern Art

This display contains approximately 35 pieces of Pacific jewellery from the Gallery’s Collection and focuses on the diversity of media used by artists to create both lei and other forms of body adornment in the Pacific.

Throughout the Pacific, makers and wearers of jewellery embrace the diversity of materials available in the region. This display considers the influence of new materials brought to the Pacific and the ways in which Pacific artists deftly negotiate between natural, commercial and industrial resources, from barkcloth, crochet wool, kina shells, natural and commercial dyes to plastic soy-sauce containers and curling ribbon.

Many of these works were purchased in 2003 during the annual Pasifika Festival in Auckland, New Zealand, and the Ninth Festival of Pacific Arts, held in the Republic of Palau in 2004. Festivals provide an important platform for Pacific women whose practice might not otherwise be visible. Lei, baskets, fans and mats are often produced specifically for a festival event and reveal interesting shifts between customary and contemporary in Pacific culture. These festivals also encourage the transfer of customary knowledge and practices to younger generations.

A ceremonial, celebrative and performative object, the lei has undergone many changes but retains its significance in renewing and representing culture across the Pacific diaspora. Some of these objects were produced with the idea that they are disposable, but that knowledge is both retained and gained through the making process. Other works, such as those by Sofia Tekela-Smith and Niki Hastings-McFall, who are both represented by fine art dealers, are produced with private collectors or public institutions in mind.